Mesfouf ~ super-soft, steamed, sweet buttery couscous with raisins and nuts or anything you like!
This dish exists in various forms throughout North Africa, see Algerian savoury Mesfouf with green peas and broadbeans
Today I’m sharing another Algerian recipe from sister Nawel (if you are out there reading this Jazaaki Allahu Khayran) that I scaled down, yes believe or not this is a scaled down version and still feeds 3-4 people.
Another small tweak I made was toasting my mixture of nuts in the oven and giving most a rough chop before adding to the couscous, the original recipe didn’t indicate whether the nuts are to be toasted or chopped so I took the initiative and I’m happy I did. Toasting or roasting the nuts makes them crisper, brings out their natural oils in turn you get an intense nutty flavour. Chopping the nuts means you are guaranteed nuttiness in every mouthful of Mesfouf. I used a mixture or almonds, walnuts and pistachios but feel free to use any you like/ have to hand or leave them out altogether, this is really a dish you can easily make your own / to your liking.
The Couscous is steamed 3 times in a Keskes/ couscoussier until ultra soft, not wet. It’s combined with oil, water and butter at various stages to make sure a. the couscous grains remain separate b. it cooks thoroughly c. has rich buttery taste. You can always replace butter with the same amount extra-virgin coconut oil or even use all extra-virgin olive oil instead and remember these will affect the taste of the dish. If using oil you need about 3/4 the amount of butter.
Golden raisins bring natural sweetness and are most often used in Algeria. Any dry fruit such as dates, prunes, apricots may be used instead or along with raisins, I would chop up those larger dry fruits into smaller pieces first though.
Mesfouf is further sweetened to taste before or when serving, traditionally with sugar. I used honey therefore, other sweeteners may be substituted too.
A speciality during the month of Ramadan (month of fasting), Mesfouf is often eaten for suhur (pre-dawn meal before fasting), at room temperature along with a cold glass of milk or leb’an – coagulated sour milk diluted with water. I like eating Mesfouf for breakfast or to keep me going through the afternoon slump.
In the UK I use buttermilk or Greek yoghurt mixed with water instead of Leb’an.
As my husband always makes Mesfouf into ‘porridge’ that’s what I did here and because it’s autumn I warm up the buttermilk first before adding it to the Mesfouf, It gives a nice tang to counter the sweetness.
This recipe requires focus and a great deal of attention but it’s worth it, for a taste of this sweet fluffy goodness.
Mesfouf ~ Sweet Couscous
super-soft, steamed sweet buttery couscous with raisins and nuts or anything you like!
- 250 grams fine couscous
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 35 grams unsalted butter, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- handful of almonds
- handful of walnuts
- handful of pistachios
- handful of golden raisins
- 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water (rose water can be used instead)
- sugar / honey / sweetener to taste*
- cinnamon, for sprinkling
- milk,leb’an or buttermilk
- Pre-heat oven 375F/180C/Gas Mark 5. Arrange nuts on a baking tray, place in the oven for 5-10 minutes until toasted. Allow to cool before roughly chopping 3/4, saving the whole nuts for decoration. Set aside.
- Heat water in the bottom pot of a couscoussier over medium heat, place basket on top and allow the water to come to a simmer. Meanwhile, In a large shallow bowl add couscous. With your hands or a fork mix in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 cup cold water. Once the water has been absorbed by the couscous and the couscoussier has come to a simmer (you will see the steam coming through the holes of the basket) add the couscous to the basket, leave uncovered and allow to steam for 10 minutes.
- Carefully (it will be hot) put couscous back into the large bowl, stir in 1/2 the butter, salt and 1 cup water. Allow to rest until water is absorbed then place couscous back into couscoussier basket and allow to steam for another 10 minutes.
- Empty steamed couscous back into large bowl (careful it will still be hot!), mix in remaining oil (1/2 tablespoon), raisins and 1/4 cup water. Place couscous and raisin mixture back into basket for a further 10-12 minutes steaming, couscous should be soft but not wet.
- Empty into large bowl, mix in remaining butter, orange blossom water, a tablespoon honey and the chopped nuts. Place mesfouf into a large serving dish or platter sprinkle with cinnamon, scatter with remaining nuts and drizzle with honey to taste. Serve with leb’an / buttermilk on the side for those that like it * see blog post for further details.
American cup measurement used for water. 1 cup = 240ml If doubling the recipe you will need to steam the couscous for 20 minutes at each stage.